[Photo by Brad Collis: Winners: (from left) John Alexander, Liz Alexander, Brett McLaren and St John Kent are presented with their awards by GRDC chairman Terry Enright.]
A group of Darling Downs growers who have been working together for 25 years to improve their farming systems won the GRDC Queensland and national group awards for 2004. GRDC chairman Terry Enright presented the awards to Jimbour Farmer Group members John Alexander, Liz Alexander, Brett McLaren and St John Kent at Grains Week in Brisbane in April.
Mr Enright said the group members had mostly been interested in reduced tillage when they came together in 1980 but had moved on to collaborate in the research and adoption of a range of new cropping technologies.
"One of the criteria for the GRDC"s grower group awards is a commitment by members to professional development, and the Jimbour growers have well and truly demonstrated that," Mr Enright said. "From the beginning members aimed to learn from each other and to share ideas and results from trials on each others" properties.
"Many group members have been to agricultural colleges or universities, which perhaps explains their ongoing, productive relationships with researchers, consultants and the innovative Agricultural Production Systems Research Unit in Toowoomba."
Mr Enright said issues researched by the Jimbour Group included:
Mr Enright also noted the contribution that group members made to their local community. All were members of the Brigalow Jimbour Floodplains Group and active in an integrated floodplain management plan, working with neighbours to overcome farm boundary issues.
Members had also supplied trucks, fuel and labour to help the local shire council upgrade a dirt road that, without their contribution, would never have been improved to all-weather status.
Mr Enright said the GRDC would be looking increasingly to the skills of individuals - be they in the growing, advisory, reselling, handling or marketing sectors of the grains industry - to ensure new technology emerging from research was transferred to the paddock as quickly as possible.
[Photo: co-ordinator: Wayne Pluske]
Preliminary survey and workshop results from the Adoption of Better Nutrient Management practices project indicate that many growers are unsure if the fertilisers and rates they are applying are appropriate and most would like to know the likely returns from their fertiliser investments.
Survey co-coordinator Wayne Pluske said many growers think they are doing the right thing with fertilisers but would like to be reassured. He said growers were after quantitative information on the yield and profit consequences of applying more or less fertiliser so they could get "the biggest bang for their fertiliser buck".
He said growers were keen to see results of independent trials done in their region (same rainfall and same soil type) to help their fertiliser decision-making.
More than 1200 growers completed the survey forms - 38 per cent from Victoria, 25 per cent from WA and 20 per cent from SA.
"Preliminary results are that 89 per cent of respondents rank soil nutrient management as an important feature of their farm management. Nutrient management was of similar importance to crop rotation, soil degradation and pest and weed control.
"Some 30 to 40 per cent more growers ranked nutrient management as more important than tillage method and plant variety."
The survey also showed that 92 per cent of growers believe they can improve their nutrient management over the next five years: "The greatest constraints are associated with risk and lack of information to deal with it."
Other survey results were:
By Rebecca Thyer
Analysing the stress-related genes of chickpea is the research to be undertaken by this year"s Vavilov-Frankel Fellowship winner, Narayandas Laxminarayan Mantri from the Marathwada Agricultural University, Parbhani, India.
Mr Mantri"s work will be undertaken at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, at Bundoora, Victoria, under the supervision of Dr Eddie Pang.
Mr Mantri says his fellowship, which is supported by the GRDC, will be used to study the genes governing resistance to biotic (Ascochyta blight) and abiotic stresses (drought, cold and salinity) that hamper chickpeas.
"Chickpeas are the third most important legume in the world and the outcomes of this research will be globally viable," he says. "Influences such as drought can lead to a 40 to 50 per cent reduction in yield. So this research will eventually allow for a sustainable increase in global chickpea production."
A key aspect of the research will be the use of DNA micro-array technology. Mr Mantri will challenge chickpeas with different stresses and compare the expression of genes.
"We will be able to find out what genes are expressed in different conditions and reveal genes involved in governing resistance to various stress conditions."
Collaboration with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) will be important.
As will the sharing of knowledge, says Mr Mantri: "When we develop this technology, we want to ensure it"s out there for public use. "